Culture of Hoops

2013-14 NBA Season Preview: Los Angeles Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have had one of the more impressive offseasons in the NBA and the most successful summer in franchise history. Here’s a quick season preview from top to bottom.

Most Important Player: Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin has recently adopted the league’s largest target on his back, and big men across the league will have him in their sights. With his poor postseason performance, his mental and physical toughness will be challenged every night. Regular season success rests on the shoulders of both Griffin and Chris Paul, but Griffin’s response to his critics and opposition will play a huge part in the Clippers’ success this season.

X-Factor: DeAndre Jordan
Once again DeAndre Jordan is the biggest X-factor for the Clippers. If he can find a way to raise his dismal 38 percent from the free-throw line closer to 50, he’ll become a top contributor. DeAndre has seemingly become a pet project of head coach Doc Rivers, so as his minutes increase so will his production (hopefully). I wouldn’t be surprised to see DeAndre Jordan average a double-double in rebounds and points this season.

Rotations: The Clips’ shiny new editions, Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, fit nicely as the starting wings, complementing returning starters Paul, Jordan and Griffin. Jamal Crawford returns as a microwave off the bench, scoring and sharing play-making duties with new backup point guard Darren Collison, who lacks the sheer athleticism of the man he’s replacing, Eric Bledsoe, but also offers the steadiness that Bledsoe couldn’t. Speaking of steadiness, Matt Barnes will be reprising his role as a jack-of-all-trades off the bench. As was the case last year, the Clippers’ weakness will be depth up front. Byron Mullens, Antawn Jamison and Ryan Hollins offer next to nothing when it comes to defense and rebounding but can be useful on offense.

What Needs To Go Right: Defense. The Clippers had a tough time closing out on shooters and making the right rotations. Undoubtedly Doc Rivers will fix this. Upgrading the defensive intelligence of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will give CP3 a greater feeling of defensive solidarity and create better cohesiveness on that end of the floor.

It’s Really Bad If: DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin sustains a long-term injury, similar to the situation that sidelined Chris Paul for 10-plus games last season. The Clippers backup big men are not big-time contributors, and the only one who can give a decent lift on the offensive end is Jamison, who is one of the worst defensive forwards in the NBA.

Bold Prediction: The Clippers get over the 60-win hump this year, keep the Pacific Division title, steal the Western Conference title from the Thunder and lose in the Finals to the Heat.


Matt Barnes, SF
Strengths: He has great defensive instincts, gives the Clippers a tough identity and always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Weaknesses: Like many of the Clippers wings, Barnes excels in the team game, but he’s not much of a threat in one-on-one situations. This means opposing defenses can focus their athletically gifted stoppers on creators like Paul and Crawford.
Season Prediction: Matt Barnes will have one of his best seasons ever, coming off the bench as a defensive specialist and scrapper.

Reggie Bullock, SF
Strengths: A great shooter at the small forward position, Bullock turned some heads in the NBA Summer League. He’s shown the ability to make the extra pass and in time will fit into an unselfish Doc Rivers system.
Weaknesses: His first step could use a bit of work. Penetrating the defense and making it to the free-throw line is bread and butter for small forwards. Bullock will need to add more quickness to get around some of the more agile players at his position.
Season Prediction: Sit and study young fella! It will take injuries to Dudley and Barnes for the rookie to see more than mop-up minutes.

Darren Collison, PG
Strengths: The Clippers couldn’t have found a better replacement for Bledsoe in Collison. He’s great on the fast break, quick on defense and a threat from all areas of the court.
Weaknesses: Collison is definitely not the defensive terror that Bledsoe was for this Clippers squad. He’s 6’0″ and 160 pounds, which means Chris Paul will have to exert more defensive pressure than he did last season, and Matt Barnes will probably see more time guarding premier point guards.
Season Prediction: Collison will average close to 8 points and 5 assists, garnering respect as the Clippers’ second general, in charge of the fast-paced second unit.

Jamal Crawford, SG
Strengths: Crawford was a huge spark plug for the Clippers last season, averaging 17 points per game, and was second in voting for Sixth Man of the Year. Crawford will provide energy and veteran leadership for the acclaimed Clippers “Bench Mob.” He’s has gained a reputation in the league for being one of the most consistent lone guns, with the ability to change a game with his play-making ability.
Weaknesses: Decision-making has always been Crawford’s glaring flaw. Fortunately, Doc’s system has always encouraged individual strengths while playing in a team concept. Crawford is a veteran and will be professional enough to adjust accordingly.
Season Prediction: Last season’s Sixth Man Of The Year snub rubbed him the wrong way. Crawford will win it in 2013-14.

Jared Dudley, SF
Strengths: A big wing and expert marksman, Dudley has great range (40.5 percent from deep for his career) and a high basketball IQ. A plus defender.
Weaknesses: Like Barnes, Dudley is a great system player, but he isn’t an offensive threat if he’s not being set-up by his teammates.
Season Prediction: Dudley will accomplish everything he was brought in to accomplish: be consistent. He’ll be the fourth option offensively in the starting lineup, and see some time guarding opposing first and second options.

Willie Green, SG
Strengths: What can be said about Willie other than he’s a true professional. He’s a competent shooter who’s willing to put the effort in on defense.
Weakness: This guy takes too long to heat up. So much that he might not find a place within the already talented and fast-paced second unit.
Season Prediction: In the new Clippers regime, Green’s best bet for seeing consistent minutes on the floor is to focus on the defensive end, as there will be enough shooters at all times. Towards the end of the season he’ll become a defensive stopper for the Clippers.

Blake Griffin, PF
Strengths: He’s the quickest power forward in the game and has a great touch around the rim.
Weaknesses: Since his rookie year, Griffin’s seen a dip in his raw numbers each season. He’s a poor free-throw shooter and hasn’t lived up to his defensive potential yet.
Season Prediction: Griffin will refine his offensive game, but the biggest jump will be on the other side of the ball, where he improves under Doc Rivers’ tutelage.

Ryan Hollins, C
Strengths: Hollins is good for setting tough screens, occasionally blocking shots and putting a body on big men when Jordan, Griffin or Mullens get in foul trouble.
Weaknesses: Hollins never saw a foul he didn’t like. In 11 minutes of play per game, Hollins averaged a remarkable 2.2 fouls last season.
Season Prediction: Don’t jump on his bandwagon yet, you won’t see Hollins take his warmups off much.

Antawn Jamison, PF
Strengths: A legitimate stretch 4 with 15 seasons of experience under his belt.
Weaknesses: One of the least physical power forwards in the league at this point in his career. Doesn’t pose any sort of threat on defense.
Season Prediction: Jamison will have a great shooting year, playing the perimeter and knocking down open shots created by guard penetration and double teams on Blake Griffin. Lacking in rebounds, his stat line will look more like a shooting guard’s than a power forward’s.

DeAndre Jordan, C
Strengths: Great size and athletic ability, tremendous potential to be a game-changer on the defensive end.
Weaknesses: A miserable free-throw shooter. Although he blocks a lot of shots, he’s often caught out of position on defense or being overly aggressive.
Season Prediction: With guidance from Doc Rivers, Jordan will take such a big leap defensively that the Clippers will tolerate his free-throw percentage and he’ll receive consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.

Byron Mullens, PF/C
Strengths: A skilled seven-footer who can shoot and put the ball on the floor some.
Weakness: Has yet to reach his potential. So far in his career, he’s been inefficient on offense, and hasn’t been the defensive force he can be.
Season Prediction: Look for Mullens to receive anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes a game and be a great screen-and-roll shooter in the Clippers second unit.

Chris Paul, PG
Strengths: He’s the top floor general in the game, the best extension of a head coach on the court and top three in fourth quarter production.
Weaknesses: Finding ways for the league’s best point guard to improve seems blasphemous, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway. He shot an unimpressive 32.8 percent from three, which is about 5 percentage points under par for starting point guards. In order to keep the floor spread for Griffin, Paul will have to become a better shooting threat. CP3 also has problems deciding on when to get teammates involved versus playing his own game. Paul will have to use better judgment on when to be aggressive and when to defer. Undoubtedly, Doc Rivers will help tune that up.
Season Prediction: CP3 will average slightly fewer points, but will make up for it with extra assists due to the additions of Redick and Dudley. He’ll still be the man in the fourth quarter, but with less predictability, as he’ll be surrounded by weapons all season long.

J.J. Redick, SG
Strengths: Redick is the true definition of a marksman. What separates him from many other shooters is he knows how to use his shot to create for others, penetrating and dishing after a shot fake.
Weaknesses: Creating his own shot off the dribble. When he gets into the paint, opposing defenses are counting on the pass.
Season Prediction: Redick will be among the top five in three-point percentage and threes made.

Maalik Wayns, PG
Strengths: Great ball-handler and very quick.
Weaknesses: Lack of game experience.
Season Prediction: You won’t see much from second-year man Maalik Wayns. His best bet is to soak up as much knowledge from CP3 and Collison as possible.

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